Sunday, May 29, 2011

Quick & Easy Sloppy Joes

I have made sloppy joes for years.They are super easy, inexpensive, and a huge crowd pleaser.

I am known for being picky when it comes to sloppy joes. I don't care for Manwich because A. it has a thick layer of fat on the top and B. it's way too sweet for me. And while I enjoy bell peppers, they have no place in my sloppy joes. I think they tend to take over the flavor of the meat and sauce.

When I was in high school I went to a friends house. We were filming a project for Sunday school. It got to be lunch time and there were a lot of us to feed. My friend was making sloppy joes for everyone. I wanted to know what was going into the mix so I hung out in the kitchen. I was very surprised at what I saw- ground beef, chicken gumbo soup, mustard, and ketchup.That was all. I had no idea how this was going to make sloppy joes.(I really only knew sloppy joes to be very tomato-y and super rich via school lunches) I tried a sandwich anyway.

It was the best sloppy joe I had ever had. I asked for the recipe and that was that. It's the only way I make sloppy joes.

I get asked for the recipe whenever I make them. People can't believe how simple they are.

Try them, you'll fall in love with a childhood classic all over again. :)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Sloppy Joe Meat Mix
110 calories per serving
8 servings

1 can light chicken gumbo soup
1/2-2/3 soup can water
1 lb extra lean ground beef 
2 TBS ketchup 
1 TBS mustard
light sprinkle of brown sugar (scant 1/2 tsp) 
salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 1/3 cup diced onion, 2 cloves minced garlic

Brown beef (along with onion & garlic if using) in a deep skillet. Season with salt and pepper.

Stir in condensed soup, water, ketchup, mustard, and brown sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.

Simmer, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes stirring occasionally until mixture is thickened.

Serve on buns or with ripple potato chips.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Gram's Carrot Cake

I have been thinking about my Grandma S's carrot cake for a solid week now. It's the best carrot cake I've ever had.

Both of my grandma's are great cooks and bakers. I am always very happy to have family recipes to add to my own collection. :)

Through the magic of facebook, one of my aunts was kind enough to send me the recipe.Thank you Carla!

So, let me share with you how we turn these carrots: 

into this batter:

And finally- into this amazing cake:

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Gram's Carrot Cake
Makes 12-16 servings

1 cup white sugar
2 eggs or 1/2 cup egg beaters
1/2 cup + 2 TBS oil
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups ground carrots

Mix sugar and eggs together. 

Add oil. Stir until well incorporated.

Stir in flour, salt, soda, and cinnamon. Mix until mostly combined.
Add carrots. Stir until just combined. 

Pour into a prepared 9x9 cake pan. Bake at 325 for 30-40 minutes (until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. )

Allow to cool completely. 

Frost with cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

1- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
4oz cream cheese
1/2 stick butter
3/4 tsp vanilla

Cream the cream cheese then stir in sugar and butter, add vanilla, mix well.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Home Fries

Jon is a meat and potatoes boy. He has been as long as I've known him.

His mom used to make broiled chicken wings. Jon and his brothers LOVED them. So much so that at one point I had to write to his mom (she lives overseas for work) and ask her for her recipe. After a test run, I had to teach Jon and his brothers how to make them since their momma can't just whip up a batch for them. (Well, she could, but they'd be really cold by the time they arrived).

Sometimes, when things have been stressful or if he's feeling lonesome for his family I make up a batch of his mom's wings.

I'd love to share her recipe with you, but he told me no sharing Mom's secret recipe. (Same thing for her zucchini bread. Sorry kiddos). I am thankful his Mom shared her recipes with me. :)

So, instead, I will share my recipe for the home fries I often serve with the wings. It's another one of those recipes that is more of a guideline than an actual recipe so go ahead and play with it until you find the blend of spices you like.

Par boiled, then seasoned liberally, the fries are baked in the oven. We love them. They are so flavorful we usually don't dip them in anything. Once in a great while, we dip them in a garlic-mayo sauce. Tasty.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Baked Home Fries
serves 2

About 140 calories per serving

2 medium potatoes
2 tsp olive oil
-dry mustard
-dry Italian seasoning
-garlic powder
-garlic salt
-Jane's crazy mixed up salt

Wash potatoes and pat dry. Leave the skins on.

Using either a mandoline or a sharp knife slice the potatoes into sticks. If I use my mandoline I have an insert that cuts nice even sticks- I use about 1/4 inch thickness. If I hand slice them I make them just a hair larger.

Put potatoes in a pot of warm water. Lightly salt. Bring to a simmer. Cook potatoes about 3 minutes. Drain water. CAREFULLY pat fries dry.

Combine oil and potatoes in a medium-large bowl. Season liberally with spices of your choosing.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with foil and spray liberally with cooking spray. Spread fries over the foil into a single layer.

Bake 15 minutes. Using a spatula, gently flip. Bake 15-20 minutes longer until tender and golden brown.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Asian Chicken Wraps

Man alive, it feels like I haven't blogged in forever. It's been very busy around here lately.

Quick catch up:

Work is going very well. I continue to learn new things every day. This week was my first experience with inventory on such a large scale.(I've done inventory at other stores and businesses, but this was much more complex than anything I've done before) It actually involved another company coming in to do the counts. There is a lot more to the process than I ever imagined.

Summer has arrived in all her glory to the south. That means many things- strong thunderstorms that erupt out of nowhere, fresh fruits and veggies ever where you look, playing on the beach in the sun, and wild fires.

The current wild fire is over to the west of us in the Okefenokee Swamp. If you are a regular reader you may recall I went to the Okefenokee for my birthday. About two weeks ago lightening struck and ignited the fire in the swamp. Because of the dry conditions, over 150 square miles have burned thus far.

Here's a picture from one of the local newspapers:

My mom had mentioned that officials had wrapped the historic Chesser homestead and the other outlying buildings with reflective heat blankets. All I could picture was a giant roll of aluminum foil! :P I did a little looking and further research showed that the heat blankets were used in 2007 to save the homestead during the last major wild fire in the swamp. I think it's a pretty cool concept. Way to go science!

Thank you to the nearly 200 fire fighters who have been fighting the blaze!

As a result of the fire there has been a lot of smoke. We don't get a lot of it here, unless the wind shifts. My parents, who are further south than we are, get more of the smoke and ash from the winds. (They can keep it, the smoke stinks!) There have been a few days were visibility has been so limited you can't see from stop light to stop light. Parts of the interstate have been closed intermittently due to no visibility. Yesterday we had a little bit of ash falling from the sky. I had a moment of panic thinking it was snow flurries. Yea, it was 90 and sunny, but white stuff falling from the sky still equals snow in my head. Then, the wind shifts and it disappears. This can all happen in a matter of a few minutes.

Here's a satellite photo from NASA of the swamp:

It's been interesting to learn about these things as we go :)

I almost forgot one of the most exciting things:

My peach trees are getting heavy with fruit! So heavy in fact, I had to actually pull some of the fruit off and let the mini peaches ripen on my counter top. The young trees were so top heavy they were leaning over to the point they were nearly laying on the ground! I can't wait until later in the summer when the fruits are big and juicy :)

As the temperatures heat up, I start looking for refreshing suppers to serve. No-cook and grilled meals are our favorite in summer. I found a new Asian chicken wrap a few weeks ago and we were both really excited to try them. They were an instant favorite.

They are light, crisp, and refreshing. Delicious!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Asian Chicken Wraps
Recipe modified from

1/4 cup KRAFT Asian Toasted Sesame Dressing (plus additional for drizzling)
2 Tbsp. MIRACLE WHIP Dressing
4 cups pre-shredded coleslaw
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 large carrot, shredded
1 green onion, thinly sliced
Flour tortillas
pickled sweet banana peppers (optional)

In a large bowl, mix 1/4 cup dressing with 2 TBS miracle whip. Toss with slaw, chicken, onion, and carrot. Chill for about 30 minutes.

Spoon desired amount of filling into flour tortillas. Top with banana pepper slices if using. Drizzle with about 1/2- 3/4 tsp sesame dressing. Roll up and serve immediately.*

* Do not spoon filling in until you are ready to serve. If you do this early the tortillas will get overly soft and gummy.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Fun in the sun!

For our anniversary, Jon and I went out to eat at a BBQ joint called Sonny's. After we had our fill of brisket, ribs, corn bread, coleslaw, and baked beans we needed a long walk. Off to the beach we went!

Here's how the conversation went after this first photo:

Jon:"Happy Anniversary!"
Me: " Yea, wait, why didn't you smile in the picture?"
Jon: " I did.... inside."
Me: "You are a total dork"

Needless to say I made him take a new one :)

We had a delightful time playing in the sand and walking along the water as the tide rolled back in.

There is always something different to see when you go to the ocean. This time there were a few shrimp boats out on the water, loads of dead jellyfish, and a whole heap of sea foam. The winds were pretty fierce as the sun started to set so bits and pieces of foam would break free and go shooting across the sand. (It reminded me of when a chunk of snow would escape on a windy day and go skittering across the snow banks, only I wasn't bundled up for fear of hypothermia!)

It was a wonderful way to celebrate our special bond.

Ok, moving on. ;)

One of our conversations on the beach led us to the topic of a little hole in the wall Chinese restaurant we used to go to with our friends back in MN. The restaurant had the best fried cream cheese wontons they called "cheese puffs." Jon and I have both had a hankering for them in recent weeks.

So, I decided it was time to make some of our own.

Jon took one bite. With a mouthful he gave his overwhelming approval. This is a huge deal. Jon is Mr. Manners. He won't talk with a mouthful, ever.

Keep in mind this is a really small batch (which is probably good because they aren't good for you because they are fried). But as a treat once every 6-9 months, it's ok to splurge a little bit. I won't tell on you, I promise.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Cream Cheese Wontons
Makes about 10

3-4 TBS (heaping) light cream cheese
1 individually wrapped wedge laughing cow light garlic and herb cheese
1/2 green onion, minced
1 drop Worcestershire sauce (really, just a single drop)
black pepper taste
10 wonton skins
Olive oil to fry

Soften cream cheese and laughing cow cheese together in a microwave safe bowl for about 15-20 seconds. Mix well.

Stir in onion, Worcestershire sauce, and pepper.

Lay out the wonton skins in an assembly line. Place a dollop of filling in the middle of each wrapper. Wet two sides of the wrapper with a little water on your finger. Fold wonton over the filling, pressing to seal into a triangle.

In a medium sized pot, pour enough oil to just cover the bottom. Heat until oil starts to ripple slightly.

CAREFULLY lower 2 wontons into the oil. Flip once to evenly brown both sides. (This only takes about 35-40 seconds total). Remove from oil and drain well on paper towels.

Repeat with remaining wontons.

Serve warm with sweet and sour sauce.

Monday, May 2, 2011

May 3, 2008

I take you to be my wife/husband, my partner in life, and my one true love.
I will cherish our friendship and love you today, tomorrow, and forever.
I will trust you and honor you.
I will laugh with you and cry with you.
I will love you faithfully and unconditionally.
Through the best and the worst, through the difficult and the easy,
Whatever life brings I will always be there.
As I have given you my hand to hold, so I give you my life to keep.
Happy anniversary sweetheart.